Earlier this year, Oregon’s House of Representatives passed a bill that requires cities of at least 10,000 people to think up a housing strategy plan for the next eight years. The first to be approved in the state was Ashland, who came up with a litany of housing goals that work to show their focuses for almost a decade’s worth of planning.
These take place within 15 different strategies, all included into the plan instead of just one, so that they may know their options as time goes on. After all, with a housing crisis happening now and Covid having just happened, you have to be prepared for pretty much anything that can happen. The plan was approved by the state with all 15 strategies included.
The plan Ashland has come up with includes many initiatives for increasing opportunities for home ownership and encouraging the development of affordable rental housing.
Thankfully, through an interview with JPR’s Jane Vaughan, Ashland’s housing program specialist Linda Reid has given us some insight as to what the city’s goals are for the future.
So, why is this plan even needed for the city? Well, according to Reid, Oregon is facing a housing affordability crisis, just as many other states are. Rising prices of homes and rent is making it near impossible for people to find affordable housing, and it’s mainly due to a shortage of housing supply in many communities around the state.
The question is, does Ashland have the land needed for new housing? It does, and part of the housing production strategy was doing analysis on what is needed for housing for the next 20-year period. The city does indeed have the land, and is zoned in ways that will meet the housing needs for the next 20 years, and that includes the possibility of annexing more land to be a part of the city if necessary.
With people spending more and more on rent, how do they plan on addressing rent affordability? According to Reid, the city wants to incentivize the development of “deed restricted regulated affordable housing units”. They’re looking to establish a construction excise tax to provide financial incentives to developers. They’re looking at property tax exemption on multiple-unit properties to encourage the development of multifamily affordable housing. Along with that, they’re going to be evaluating an urban renewal, among other financing tools, to assist with infrastructure.
What a lot of people are worrying about is the fact that this is an 8-year plan in response to an affordable housing crisis that is happening now. Yes, housing takes a long time and is really complicated, but with a plan that stretches from 2023 to 2031, many are concerned about the fact that it won’t be able to affect the situation that is affecting people currently. According to Linda Reid, that’s just how the process is: slow, but they’re doing the best with what they’ve got. They have 15 different strategies that they wish to explore, many that do address affordable housing and lowering rent, but they want to give time for each one to be properly implemented and explored thoroughly. It will involve a lot of community engagement, and with Ashland being a relatively small city with a small amount of staff, they’re trying to give the staff enough time to implement these strategies without rushing or botching anything.
Each strategy will have to go through community feedback, then go through the Housing and Human Services Advisory committee for review, then the Planning Commission, and then through the Council. Through this process, they’re hoping to get around two or three strategies put into place every year, with enough time for them to be explored. It’s a lot of work they’re trying to implement as fast, but as efficiently and thoroughly, as they can.